Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Vaccines & Autism - Some Sound Advice

There is very little support in the scientific community for the "vaccines cause autism" fears that have grabbed the hearts and minds of many parents. But still the fears are such that many people forgo vaccinating their children. The Lafayette Journal & Courier has offered some sound editorial advice which is well worth reading:

Vaccination: Safer than the alternative

It takes less than a minute to vaccinate your child against the measles, a virus that has infected and killed thousands of children worldwide.

But some parents are unwilling to do so.

Not everyone believes the ample body of validated evidence that supports this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's assertion: Vaccinating children against measles, mumps and rubella is the safe and responsible thing to do.

The National Vaccination Information Center is a parent-led organization that aims to prevent vaccine injuries and deaths. Its Web site warns that vaccines can cause their own problems, such as autism, and details cases of children who, the NVIC claims, became violently ill or died after receiving regularly scheduled vaccinations.

Much of its evidence is anecdotal.

But repeated studies confirm the vaccinations are safe for the overwhelming majority of children.

Last week the CDC announced that the largest U.S. measles outbreak in a decade had been traced to a Clinton County girl.

The girl had not received the typical round of childhood immunizations before she traveled to Romania in 2005, federal health officials said. She returned carrying the measles virus, prompting an outbreak that infected 32 people in Indiana and one from Illinois.

Most were children. Only two had been vaccinated against the disease. Three were hospitalized. And one spent time in the intensive care unit before recovering, the CDC said.

The CDC has determined there is no convincing evidence that vaccines, such as the one that prevents measles, cause autism or other related health disorders.

What's clear is that before vaccines were available, thousands of children became sick -- and some died -- from the measles virus before the vaccine became available in 1963.

At that time, U.S. health officials documented about 450,000 measles cases and about 450 measles deaths annually. Now, as more and more children routinely receive vaccinations, the number has dramatically dropped.

Science, not fear, should be the deciding factor in how we protect our children.

Refusing to vaccinate them is a dangerous practice that could endanger their lives.

Autism Heroes 2006

2006 has been a momentous year for autism advocacy in North America. The US enacted the Combating Autism Act and in Canada the Scott-Stoffer private member motion calling for a National Autism Strategy passed in the House of Commons with only the Bloc Quebecois putting partisan politics ahead of compassion and refusing to endorse the motion. In no particular order I offer my personal list of Autism Heroes for 2006.

1. Teacher Greg Peters and the students in his political science classes at Leo Hayes High School in Fredericton for the past two years who worked tirelessly and effectively to garner support for a National Autism Strategy in Canada.

2. Andy Scott MP Fredericton NB - Andy Scott has worked for several years on a National Autism Strategy and "wheeled and dealed", lobbied and persuaded to get it under way in 2006 with private member motion M-172.

3. Peter Stoffer MP Sackville-Eastern Shore NS - Peter Stoffer has also laboured long in support of a National Autism Strategy, seconded M-172 and spoke eloquently in support of the need for a National Autism Strategy for Canada.

4. Shawn Murphy MP - Charlottetown PEI - Shawn Murphy brought his own motion calling for amendments to the Canada Health Act to specify autism and autism treatment. His efforts continued to highlight in Canada the need for a NAS.

5. Autism Society New Brunswick - the struggle for a National Autism Strategy has been long underway. The ASNB has been actively fighting and lobbying for a NAS for several years. Lila Barry, Nancy Blanchette, Jason Oldford, Luigi Rocca, Dawn Bowie, Brian Rimpilainen and many others at ASNB have fought long and hard to advance the cause of autism on the national level.

6. Andrew Kavchak, Sam Yassine, Mike Lewis, Jean Lewis, Shirley Hewko and the families in the Auton and Wynberg cases all of whom have lobbied, sued, advocated and fought for better conditions in the lives of their children and other persons with autism.

7. US Senator Chris Dodd (D) and former Senator Rick Santorum (R) for introducing and championing the Combating Autism Act. Also US President George W. Bush for signing the CAA into law.

8. New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham for his commitment to provide autism specific training to Teachers' Aides and Resource Teachers working with autistic students in New Brunswick schools.

9. Former New Brunswick Health Minister Brad Green who reversed a decision to discontinue pediatric tertiary care services for autistic children at the Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation in Fredericton and committed to the funding of a new team dedicated specifically to the provision of autism services at the Centre. Director Ron Harris at the Stan Cassidy who provided well informed leadership to those who fought for the commitment to the new autism team and who is overseeing the development of the team.

10. Clinical Psychologist and Professor Emeritus (Psychology) Paul McDonnell who received special recognition from the Autism Society New Brunswick this year for his outstanding contributions to the cause of autism in New Brunswick. Paul works with autistic children in his practice and has been a primary source of knowledge, confidence and inspiration for parents advocating for better lives for their children with autism.

11. Autistic children and adults who have made our lives better in 2006 and all years and provide joy and strength to parents in our daily lives, including my son, Conor .

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Amnesty International: Police Use of Taser Convenes International Standards

Amnesty International has criticized the use by police forces of TASER weapons as contraventions of international standards prohibiting torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment as well as standards set out under the United Nations (UN) Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by law Enforcement Officials. Amnesty has also asked that force should be used as a last resort and that officers must apply only the minimum amount of force necessary to obtain a lawful objective. They also provide that all use of force must be proportionate to the threat posed as well as designed to avoid unwarranted pain or injury. Amnesty International has called on law enforcement agencies to suspend all use of electro-shock weapons, pending an urgent rigorous independent and impartial inquiry into their use and effects. Other recommendations include recommendations for the immediate control and limitation on the use of the taser by forces who continue to deploy such weapons.

The AI report can be found at this url

Fredericton Police, Tasers And Autistic Persons

Fredericton police will now be armed with TASERS. Fredericton City Council has voted to authorize the purchase of the stun guns with the " high-voltage charge that temporarily shocks unruly individuals and allows police to disable them." (Daily Gleaner, December 23, 2006). Unfortunately for autistic persons, including some autistic persons with low IQ's, they can sometimes be perceived as unruly and dangerous by police authorities. And TASERS are dangerous weapons. As the Gleaner stated: "

"Taser use remains controversial.

The Canada Safety Council in 2005 said that 50 people in the United States died between 2002 and 2005 after receiving Taser shocks.

In Canada in 2005, there were five deaths after police used stun guns, including one in Moncton, although the Canada Safety Council hastened to add that the Taser was not named as the cause of death in those cases."

[Not named as the cause of death following TASER Fire? - If a heart stops beating after being fired upon by a TASER ; heart failure might be the medical cause but surely the TASER fire should be a suspect in bringing about the cause of death? - HLD]

Rendering a person unable to use their muscle systems to prevent falling or to allow falling in a protective manner victims of TASER attacks are vulnerable to injuries such as head injuries when falling on a hard surface such as a curb or road. Concerns have been expressed around the world about the indiscriminate use of these high voltage weapons and about their use on persons with autism and other mental disabilities. Hopefully the Fredericton City Police training will include training to recognize behavior characteristic of such persons and how to deal with them - short of firing upon them with TASERS."

From New Zealand:

" Injuries to officers highlight taser dangers

Keith Locke MP, Green Party Police Spokespon

13th September 2006

Green Party Police Spokesperson Keith Locke has written to the Police Minister asking her to reconsider her support for the taser trial following a disclosure that three New Zealand police officers had been injured during tests.

Two officers had received minor flesh injuries, and one was dazed after falling badly.

“Taser victims often ‘fall badly’ because they have no muscular control to cushion the impact,” Mr Locke says.

“Presumably the dazed officer was tasered on a soft surface, unlike many taser victims, who will knock their head on a hard road, a curb, or a protruding object.

“Overseas, such falls have caused death or serious injury. On June 4, 2004 Jerry Pickens was tasered in Bridge City, Louisiana. He fell backward, hit his head on his driveway, went into a coma and died.

“The taser is also dangerous to people with heart conditions, or those whose cardio-vascular system is affected by drugs. The police ‘guinea pigs’ would have been fit and healthy, unlike many of the people they will be tasering on the street.

“I have written to Police Minister Annette King to ask her to reconsider whether the trial should go ahead in the light of this new evidence,” Mr Locke says.

“The risk to the public is too great to justify the continued use of this weapon.”

From Illinois:

Ill. teen shot by police stun gun dies

The Associated Press

JERSEYVILLE, Ill.- A teenager carrying a Bible and shouting "I want Jesus" was shot twice with a police stun gun and later died at a St. Louis hospital, authorities said.

In a statement obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, police in Jerseyville, about 40 miles north of St. Louis, said 17-year-old Roger Holyfield would not acknowledge officers who approached him and he continued yelling, "I want Jesus."

Police tried to calm the teen, but Holyfield became combative, according to the statement. Officers fired the stun gun at him after he ignored their warnings, then fired again when he continued struggling, police said.

Holyfield was flown to St. Louis' Cardinal Glennon Hospital after the confrontation Saturday; he died there Sunday, police said.

From Oregon:


By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian
The Oregonian

When Portland police encountered Sir J. Millage walking barefoot and shirtless in the chill December dawn, carrying what appeared to be a stick or metal rod, they thought he "might be unstable and possibly violent."

Witnesses who had spotted Millage walking amid traffic across the Broadway Bridge told police they thought the 5-foot-10 inch, 260-pound person was around 25. An officer later was struck by his "fixed gaze," as if he was looking "right through" him. He did not respond to shouted orders to drop his stick, and, according to the officer, waved it in a threatening manner.

One officer fired four Taser shots at Millage, and then another struck him six times with his baton because he wouldn't stay on the ground. They thought Millage was high on drugs.

Millage's great-grandmother and legal guardian, Pastor Mary Overstreet Smith, said Millage didn't respond to police because he's autistic.

He's also 15 years old and can hardly talk. She said she can't understand what led to the use of physical force that Dec. 5 morning and is sickened by what occurred.

"He can't speak for himself. It tears me up when I read this," she said, flipping through the police report. "I just feel like what they did was unwarranted."

As the father of a 10 year old autistic boy with limited verbal skills this story from Oregon is particularly disturbing to me as I contemplate Fredericton City police officers patrolling city streets armed with TASERS. I hope that our good officers are receiving training not just in firing TASERS but in recognizing characteristics of persons with autism and other mental disorders so that they do not mistake them for "unruly" criminals. And I hope that their excitement expressed by Police union represenetative Cst. Currie does not become an excitability and eagerness to use these new and dangerous weapons:

"Const. Ralph Currie, president of Fredericton Police UBC Local 911, said the union supports Taser use.

"The feeling is it's an absolutely necessary tool in our business ... We're excited about the fact that we're moving forward," Currie said."

Friday, December 22, 2006

Parenting (Behavior Modification) Therapy for Children's Mental Disorders

The New York Times reviews a trend towards using behavior modification based parenting as an alternative to, or at least, as a complement to medication to treat various disorders including Autism, ADHD and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Parents of autistic children have been fighting for years in Canada and the US for Applied Behavior Analysis therapy for their children. But professionals and parents are now looking at behavior based approaches to parenting and treating children with a variety of disorders. And avoiding over reliance on medication.

"In a study involving 128 families, psychologists at the university had found that about a third of parents who completed the program saw enough improvement in their children that they had decided that medication was unnecessary. The other two-thirds put their children on stimulant medication at school but at doses significantly lower those typically prescribed, said William Pelham, a psychologist who is director of the Center for Children and Families at Buffalo and the senior author of the study. Eighty percent of the families who participated in the program, with follow-up parent training, decided that their children did not need medication at home.

“Most parents seeking help for a child with a psychiatric disorder never hear about programs like this,” Dr. Pelham said. “The only option they’re given is medication. Now, it may be that the best treatment for that child is medication. But how do you know if you never try anything else?”

Behavior modification for A.D.H.D. and for related problems, like habitually disruptive or defiant behavior, is based on a straightforward system of rewards and consequences. Parents reward every good or cooperative act they see: small things, like simply paying attention for a few moments, earn an “attaboy.” Completing homework without complaint might earn time on a Gameboy. Parents remove privileges, like television and playtime, or impose a “time out,” in response to defiance and other misbehavior.

And they learn to ignore annoying but harmless attempts to win attention, like making weird noises, tapping or acting like a baby."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Autism's Many Faces

It will not come as a surprise to many parents of children with autism that researchers are examining different kinds and degrees of autism. On the internet there are many high functioning autistic persons who are obviously very intelligent, literate and self aware. Their perspectives and insights are interesting but of little help in raising, caring for and educating my son with limited verbal and communication skills who also lacks awareness of the life's common dangers such as automobile traffic. The differing types and degrees of autism are now starting to receive more attention from researchers who are focusing on physical characteristics which may distinguish the different types. It is hoped that such research might lead to more specific and effective treatments.

Ped Med: The many faces of autism

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Although all show some degree of difficulty in socializing, communicating and imagining, like snowflakes, no two cases of autism are exactly alike, researchers say.

Their newfound recognition of the condition's diverse complexity and multi-faceted nature carries over to the research field, where the seekers of causes and cures are starting to look for ways to subdivide the disorder and crack its armor of secrecy piece by piece.

"The analogy that I find most helpful is to childhood leukemia," said Dr. Judith Miles, professor of pediatrics, Thompson Endowed Chair of Child Health and Pathology and director of the Medical Genetics Division at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

"When I went to medical school, we thought it was one disorder, and only 5 percent of kids survived. Over the past 25 years, we realized it's a class of disorders. By separating the different types and learning how to treat each appropriately, we were able to make progress so that the survival rate is now 90 percent."

Miles is convinced all that looks like autism doesn't have the same cause and, therefore, will require a different therapeutic approach.

"If we can be more precise, we can do a lot of things," she said. "That would include the ability to prognosticate a child's future capabilities and design more specific and hence more efficacious treatments."

To that end, she has proposed the criteria for identifying autism, which currently are broadly based on social, communication and behavioral symptoms, be broken down into two further categories.

The recommendation is based on her finding that 20 percent of autistic children differ from the rest in both unusual physical features, such as an abnormal head size or malformed ear or hand, and autistic symptoms, which may include lower IQ, seizures or lack of speech after age 8. The researchers dubbed this subtype "complex autism."

They noted the much larger set of youngsters without the corporeal differences tended to be male and have siblings with a high risk for autism and other kin with the disorder. They called this subdivision "essential autism."

"It's very important for families to realize that autism is not a single disorder," Miles said, noting the two subgroups she has identified have different outcomes and recurrence rates.

"Separating essential autism from complex autism should be the first diagnostic step for children with autism spectrum disorders as it allows better prognostication and counseling."

Miles's five-year investigation sets the stage for exposing autism's genetic underpinnings, she said.

"By determining if there are differences between the children who have distinct physical markers such as a small head and those who don't, we can start to identify differences in their genes," Miles said.

"Once you start splitting the disorder into subgroups, you start seeing specific trends and the water is not as muddy as it once was."

For example, Ohio State University investigators observed genetic changes found in certain cancers -- including of the breast, thyroid, uterus, endometrium and brain -- also appear in some types of autism.

They detected a mutated version of the so-called "PTEN" protein in three of 18 individuals with larger-than-normal heads and autism-spectrum disorders, including the severely impairing classic autism and Rett syndrome, a type that affects primarily girls.

Although it was based on a small study, the observation raises the possibility some people with autism and large heads may face an increased cancer risk, the authors said."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

President Bush Signs Combating Autism Act into Law

In another historic day for persons with autism disorder US President George W Bush signed into law the Combating Autism Act. The bill dramatically increases US federal funding for autism including research which could well benefit all persons with autism.

"For the millions of Americans whose lives are affected by autism, today is a day of hope. The Combating Autism Act of 2006 will increase public awareness about this disorder and provide enhanced federal support for autism research and treatment. By creating a national education program for doctors and the public about autism, this legislation will help more people recognize the symptoms of autism. This will lead to early identification and intervention, which is critical for children with autism. I am proud to sign this bill into law and confident that it will serve as an important foundation for our Nation s efforts to find a cure for autism."

- President George W. Bush, 12/19/06

Today, President Bush Signed The Combating Autism Act Of 2006. This Act authorizes expanded activities related to autism research, prevention, and treatment through FY 2011. There are more than 1.5 million cases of autism in the United States.

  • Since The President Took Office, National Institutes Of Health (NIH) Funding For Autism-Related Research Has Increased By Over 80 Percent From $56 Million In FY 2001 To An Estimated $101 Million In The FY 2007 Budget, Including Support For Autism Centers of Excellence. In addition, the Budget includes approximately $15 million at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for autism surveillance and research, including five regional Centers of Excellence for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research and Epidemiology. In October, CDC initiated a $5.9 million study to help identify factors that may put children at risk for autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities.

The Combating Autism Act Enhances Research, Surveillance, And Education Regarding Autism Spectrum Disorder

The Act Authorizes Research Under NIH To Address The Entire Scope Of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Autism, sometimes called "classical autism," is the most common condition in a group of developmental disorders known as the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Other ASDs include Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (usually referred to as PDD-NOS).

The Act Authorizes Regional Centers Of Excellence For Autism Spectrum Disorder Research And Epidemiology. These Centers collect and analyze information on the number, incidence, correlates, and causes of ASD and other developmental disabilities. The Act also authorizes grants to States for collection, analysis, and dissemination of data related to autism.

The Act Authorizes Activities To Increase Public Awareness Of Autism, Improve The Ability Of Health Care Providers To Use Evidence-Based Interventions, And Increase Early Screening For Autism. The Act authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to:

  • Provide information and education on ASD and other developmental disabilities to increase public awareness of developmental milestones;
  • Promote research into the development and validation of reliable screening tools for ASD and other developmental disabilities and disseminate information regarding those screening tools;
  • Promote early screening of individuals at higher risk for ASD and other developmental disabilities as early as practicable;
  • Increase the number of individuals who are able to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of ASD and other developmental disabilities;
  • Increase the number of individuals able to provide evidence-based interventions for individuals diagnosed with ASD or other developmental disabilities; and
  • Promote the use of evidence-based interventions for individuals at higher risk for ASD and other developmental disabilities as early as practicable.

The Act Calls On The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) To Enhance Information Sharing. The IACC provides a forum to facilitate the efficient and effective exchange of information about autism activities, programs, policies, and research among the Federal government, several non-profit groups, and the public. The Combating Autism Act requires the IACC to provide information and recommendations on ASD-related programs, and to continue its work to develop and update annually a strategic plan for ASD research.

Monday, December 18, 2006

US President Bush About to Sign Combating Autism Act into Law

Autism Speaks is reporting that US President George W. Bush will sign the Combating Autism Act into law in the United States in the next couple of days:

" The bill was presented to the President on Monday, December 11, and now awaits his signature, which is expected within the next ten days.

The Combating Autism Act authorizes nearly $1 billion over the next five years to combat autism, increasing federal spending on autism by at least 50%. The bill includes provisions relating to the diagnosis and treatment of persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders, and expands and intensifies biomedical research on autism, including an essential focus on possible environmental causes. "

Hopefully increased autism research in the US will benefit all persons with autism including those in Canada.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

David Roberts - New Assistant Deputy Minister (Student Services)

The Anglophone side of New Brunswick's Department of Education has a new Assistant Deputy Minister (Student Services). His name is David Roberts. This is an important position in the Department of Education for students with an autism disorder. Much of the advice concerning services for students with exceptionalities, including autism, received by Education Minister Lamrock from the civil service will come from those in Student Services. Only Deputy Minister John Kershaw will be senior to Mr. Roberts on the Anglophone Side.

Mr. Roberts has previously served in a number of capacities with the Province of New Brunswick in Education, Service New Brunswick and other areas. A press release detailing his background upon his appointment as General Manager of Service New Brunswick in 2004 describes his background in some detail:

"David Roberts
General Manager, Service New Brunswick

David Roberts was appointed, General Manager of Business Development, Marketing and Sales for Service New Brunswick in 2004. This position has a mandate to leverage current Service New Brunswick expertise and technologies in pursuit of e-government opportunities locally, domestically and internationally. David previously worked with the provincial department of Intergovernmental Affairs building relationships and brokering strategic partnerships between the New Brunswick Government and the Government of Canada that enhanced economic and social opportunities for New Brunswickers. Prior to this as Executive Director with New Brunswick’s Information Highway 1993-2000, he was part of a team that received many local, national and international awards for community capacity building and civic entrepreneurship through the creation of New Brunswick’s “culture of technology”. David has consulted and been a guest speaker in most provinces in Canada as well as in locations around the world such as Cienfuegos/Cuba, San Luis/Argentina, Kuala Lampur/Malaysia, Tasmania/Australia, Scarborough/Tobago, Beijing/China and Washington/USA. He has been a teacher, guidance counselor, Ministry of Education administrator and interim federal Director of Industry Canada’s Community Access initiative. He has worked in both the public and private sector and is know for his creativity and the capacity to “think outside the box.”"

Hopefully the new Assistant Deputy Minister (Student Services) will subscribe to an evidence based approach to the education of students with autism disorder. The absolutist philosophy of mainstream classroom inclusion for all students and failure to provide autism trained Teacher Assistants and Resource Teachers have impaired the development of autistic children in New Brunswick schools. Attempts to introduce flexibility into location and methods of instruction for autistic students have met with persistent resistance from some Education officials and others with vested interests in the absolute philosophy of mainstream classroom inclusion for all students. The questioning of mainstream classroom inclusion as a solve all panacea which has been taking place in the United Kingdom and some areas of the United States was by passed in the MacKay inclusion review in New Brunswick schools. There is no reason to expect that Mr. Roberts will introduce a more evidence based and flexible approach to educating autistic students. We can only wait and see at this time.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Autism Team Update from the Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation

(Click on pictures to englarge)

Top - (L) Kim McKeigan, Speech Language Pathologist SCCR Autism Team and (R) Barb Dugas, Dietitian SCCR Autism Team

Top - Ron Harris, Director SCCR and Dawn Bowie, Representative Autism Society New Brunswick

Bottom - New Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation facility adjacent to the Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton

Today was another positive day for the autism community in New Brunswick. I had the privilege, as a parent advocate, of attending the meeting of the Autism Stakeholders group (working group) to receive an update on the present status and future plans of the autism team at the Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation.

The Stan Cassidy Centre has historically provided tertiary care services in New Brunswick for persons with neurological injuries as well as for autism cases. The tertiary care level of service involves some of the most complex and challenging cases; some times life threatening. The autism workload at the Stan Cassidy Centre had grown so much that the Centre was being overwhelmed and its ability to function was at risk. An initial decision was made to discontinue provision of services to autistic persons and to concentrate on neurological injury cases only. That decision was reversed and after deliberation by a committee of stakeholders from the autism, professional and government communities a decision was reached, and approved by then Health Minister Brad Green, to establish a new team dedicated solely to working autistic persons. Today the Autism Stakeholders group (working group) met in the beautiful new Stan Cassidy Centre facility adjacent to the Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton to receive a progress update.

Two members of the five person autism team are now in place - dietitian Barb Dugas and speech language pathologist Kim McKeigan. The search continues for the three remaining members of the team an occupational therapist, a behavioural analyst and a clinical developmental psychologist. In the meantime some services will be provided by the current members of the team in appropriate cases. The development of the new autism team at the Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation is a huge plus for the autism community in New Brunswick. Thanks to everyone involved.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Conor's View of ABA

Applied Behavior Analysis is criticized from different perspectives. Those who advocate for other interventions with little or no empirical support for their effectiveness in treating or educating autistic children quite inconsistently try to nit pick and denigrate the numerous studies which have validated ABA as an effective evidence based intervention. Anecdotal evidence of parents who advocate for ABA services for autistic children is dismissed as wishful thinking by critics who have had no involvement at all with the children of those parents. And then there are the "autism is beautiful" critics who describe ABA as a brutal abusive attempt to destroy the true nature of autistic persons. Sometimes these critics even resort to long outdated and false views of ABA as involving shock therapy and physical restraint.

My son Conor is 10 years old and is "profoundly" autistic as his pediatrician who diagnosed his Autism Disorder described him. He does not appear before Senate Committees, make representations to Courts of Appeal or fashion a career for himself as a professional autistic person. He struggles with the fundamentals of language but he has, with the help of ABA interventions, learned some language and communication skills, even some reading skills. Conor's view of the "ABA is abusive" rhetoric can be best summed up in this picture of him poised before the window waiting for his therapist to arrive, an event for which he waits with great joyful anticipation. In this picture Conor moved a dining room chair into the living room 10 minutes before his therapist arrived waiting for her to show up. When she did he bounced off of his chair - happy.

No amount of persuasion will change the minds of the Anti-ABA crowd. They are welded to their opposition to ABA. They will choose to disbelieve all scientific study pointing to the efficacy of ABA as an autism intervention. They will rely on long outdated incidents to justify their caricature of ABA as abusive. They will disbelieve my comments. But Conor won't buy their nonsense. Let them tell Conor that ABA is abusive as he waits for his therapist to arrive.

(Click on picture to enlarge)

The Oxytocin and Autism Buzz

There are so many stories about causes of autism, treatments and cures, almost all of which turn out to be of little or no merit or substance that it is easy to ignore the latest story to come to public attention. Of late old dads and TV watching have taken their bows on the stage. The latest buzz is about Oxytocin a hormone which scientists say assists in trust and ...... in reading emotions and social cues in others. Hence the potential tie to autism. And researchers are starting to suggest a connection to autism as both cause and cure. Beating a drum about this latest research development is probably unwarranted at this early stage. But it looks interesting so far.

Dec. 13, 2006

Special to World Science

Re­search­ers in re­cent years have in­tense­ly stud­ied a hor­mone thought to be re­le­vant to aut­ism, a dis­or­der that has stirred grow­ing alarm. And the longer the scru­ti­ny of the hor­mone, ox­y­to­cin, goes on, the longer grows a list of some­times sur­pris­ing pow­ers at­tri­buted to it. These are prompt­ing sci­ent­ists to pro­pose the chem­i­cal might help treat aut­ism.

Last year, one group iden­ti­fied it as a hor­mone that helps us to trust. Now, re­search­ers say it may also aid us with “mind read­ing,” or the abil­i­ty to gauge oth­er peo­ple’s emo­tions based on sub­tle so­cial cues.


The Mount Si­nai re­search­ers worked with 15 peo­ple di­ag­nosed with ei­ther au­tism or Aspe­rger’s Syn­drome, a si­m­i­lar con­di­tion of­ten viewed as a mild form of au­tism. In the stu­dy, the pa­tients re­ceived ox­y­to­cin in­fu­sions and, on a sep­a­rate day, in­fu­sions of an in­ac­tive sub­stance for com­par­i­son.

The sci­en­tists found that both treat­ments led to bet­ter scores on a test that in­volved dis­cern­ing the emo­tional tone of pre-recorded state­ments, but the im­prove­ments lasted long­er with ox­y­to­cin treat­ment.

A pre­vi­ous stu­dy, pub­lished in the June 2, 2005 is­sue of the re­search jour­nal Na­ture, found that a whiff of ox­y­to­cin made peo­ple more like­ly to trust some­one else to look af­ter their cash.

Some com­men­ta­tors started to dub ox­y­to­cin the “trust hor­mone” af­ter that. But the new­est find­ings sug­gest that its pow­ers in social func­tion­ing ex­tend well be­yond trust, in­to “mind-reading” abil­i­ty as well, wrote re­search­ers with Ros­tock Uni­ver­si­ty in Ros­tock, Ger­ma­ny, in Bi­o­log­i­cal Psy­chi­a­try’s Nov. 28, 2006 ad­vance on­line edi­tion.

This group tested 30 healthy men on the “Read­ing the Mind in the Eyes Test,” which in­volves judg­ing peo­ple’s emo­tional state based on pho­tographs of their eyes. The par­ti­ci­pants sniffed ei­ther ox­y­to­cin or an in­ac­tive sub­stance, one week apart, and were found to do bet­ter with the ox­y­to­cin.

Like the two pre­vi­ous stud­ies, it was dou­ble-blind, mean­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tors weren’t aware at any giv­en time of wheth­er par­ti­ci­pants had got­ten the real or the sham treat­ment.

“The abil­i­ty to ‘read the mind’ of oth­er in­di­vid­u­al, that is, to in­fer their men­tal state by in­ter­pret­ing sub­tle so­cial cues, is in­dis­pen­sa­ble in hu­man so­cial in­ter­ac­tion,” the re­search­ers wrote. Be­cause au­tism is char­ac­ter­ized both by low ox­y­to­cin and “by dis­tinct im­pair­ments in mind-read­ing,” they added, “ox­y­to­cin should be con­sid­ered a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor in the path­o­gen­e­sis [cause] and treat­ment of au­tism.”

Monday, December 11, 2006

Combating Autism Act Now Goes to President Bush

The US Combating Autism Act has been passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate and now requires signature by US President George W. Bush. President Bush has been very reluctant to veto legislation presented to him for signature having issued his first veto after 5 1/2 years in the White House. That veto was cast rejecting a bill that would have overturned his policy limiting federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Hopefully President Bush will not use his veto power again on the Combating Autism Act. That legislation will directly benefit autistic persons in the United States by increasing funding for screening, education, early intervention and prompt referrals for treatment and services. It would also indirectly benefit autistic persons outside the US by substantially increasing funding for autism research. President Bush is undoubtedly a busy man but hopefully he can get the CAA signed quickly.

Keep Your Autism Promise Premier Graham

The Telegraph Journal has written an excellent editorial imploring the newly elected Liberal government of New Brunswick to keep its campaign promises. The TJ views the keeping of campaign promises as a test of a new government's integrity and a factor in whether a new government earns the trust of the people - and a renewed mandate. During the campaign then Opposition Leader Shawn Graham made a very specific promise. He stated clearly that if elected the Liberal government would train 100 TA's and Resource Teachers per year for the next four years at the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training course. These trained personnel are badly needed to assist in the challenges of educating approximately 1000 students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in New Brunswick schools. Many of these students present with serious behavioral, communication and learning challenges. The UNB-CEL course is nationally recognized and is approved by the Autism Society New Brunswick. The campaign training commitment made by Mr. Graham was made with input from ASNB. While the Education Minister Kelly Lamrock has made generic statements about assisting students with disabilities he has yet to confirm the Liberals express written autism training commitment.

Parents of autistic children in New Brunswick have seen government delay and dissembling tactics in the past. In the past such tactics have hurt our children, and compromised their development and our confidence in the integrity of the politicians and civil servants to whom we entrust our children's welfare and development. Hopefully Minister Lamrock or Premier Graham will soon clearly confirm the Liberal government's intent to honor its autism training pledge. Autistic students need these trained personnel. Such training could not begin before April 2007 but preparations are necessary now. Now is the time to confirm the commitment and start preparations for implementing the promised training.

Keep those promises
Political parties campaigning after years in opposition tend to follow a similar pattern. They come on strong during the campaign, offering up a range of promises that go further than what the party in government was prepared to do. Then, once they've been elected, they audit the province's finances, announce there isn't as much money available for new spending as they thought, and blame the previous government for their decision not to follow through on key election promises.

Surely this is one of the most pathetic spectacles in federal or provincial politics - the moment when the incoming government opens the door of the treasury and says, disingeniously, "Oh-oh! There isn't much money here!" It always sounds lame, because it is.

New governments are necessarily lying. There isn't a major party in Canada, federally or provincially, that has not fudged its financial results at one time or another when in government, a fact that is usually discovered after the party in question has left office. And budgets, after all, are just projections. Circumstances change, and with them, the cost of supplying public services. Fuel prices go up. The Canadian dollar rises or falls. What's left in the bank account can be radically different than what was projected months before, without any fudging whatsoever.

What infuriates the taxpaying, voting public is not the way the volume in the public purse can change between governments, but the ease with which new governments excuse themselves from carrying out their election commitments. The practice has become so common, it is predictable - and its predictability feeds public cynicism in the political process.

The only way to beat that cynicism is for a political party to be driven by performance and governed by integrity. That means keeping one's political promises, even if the cost is higher, or the balance in the public treasury lower, than expected.

New Brunswick voters gave the provincial Liberal Party a slim majority in September's election. If Premier Shawn Graham and Finance Minister Victor Boudreau want to inspire the public confidence required to win a more secure majority, they must live up to their election promises.

In recent weeks, senior Liberals have been conspicuous in cautioning New Brunswickers to lower their expectations. They might as well walk around wearing signs that read, "In four years, kick me!"

Wake up, gentlemen. Look at last week's headlines: "Liberals prepared to break promises"; "Government still treating seasonal workers like party favours." These are two of the biggest clichés in provincial politics.

It doesn't matter who is in power, the Liberals or the Conservatives. An incoming premier should be ashamed to renege on political commitments or accept pork-barrel, partisan hiring practices in government, even at the level of casual employment.

New Brunswickers expected better of Shawn Graham, and many still believe he can do better. We certainly do.

Come on, Mr. Premier. Shuck those clichés and prove it's possible to succeed by putting integrity first. That, above all else, is what New Brunswickers voted for."

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Jurisdiction Over Autism

The primary argument used by opponents of amending the Canada Health Act to include treatment for autism is that health issues are matters within provincial jurisdiction. The Conservative government, the Bloc and some "representatives" of the Autism Society Canada
[I use the term "representatives" loosely. ] argue that because health care is a matter within provincial jurisdiction the federal Canada Health Act should not be amended to include autism. This superficial argument would, if taken literally, require the repeal and abolition of the Canada Health Act. It would also require that we ignore the whole concept of cooperative federalism which has seen the development of federal-provincial sharing of resources and information to tackle issues which could overwhelm governments acting alone and strictly within their constitutional jurisdiction. Autism is exactly the type of problem which is too much for some jurisdictions to handle effectively and which requires federal financial support. Families are literally moving to rich Alberta, from across Canada, to seek treatment available to age 18 for their autistic children. In the face of this national situation the jurisdiction argument crumbles.

The development of cooperative federalism means that the federal government could make funds available to assist treatment of autistic Canadians without regard for their place of residence. Right now the federal government and the provinces are haggling over the receipt of federal monies to reduce wait times under provincial health care jurisdiction. There is no reason treatment of autism could not be required as a condition of receiving federal health care dollars under the Canada Health Act.

Clement says provinces still need convincing on wait-time guarantees

Sat Dec 9, 4:15 PM

By Chris Morris

MONCTON, N.B. (CP) - Federal Health Minister Tony Clement admitted Saturday that some of his provincial and territorial colleagues still need convincing on the issue of guaranteeing wait times for medical care, but he said he's confident it can be achieved.

Clement said a federal-provincial health ministers meeting in Moncton, N.B., underscored the fact that although money is a major sticking point, all jurisdictions agree on the need for timely access to quality health care for their citizens.

"It's not as if we're on Venus and they (the provinces and territories) are on Mars," said Clement as the two-day health ministers meeting concluded.

"We're all talking about making the system better. The provinces are doing a lot of work right now to reduce wait times. The issue is if we are going to go ahead with wait-time guarantees, how exactly would that work? What are the implications? We won't know the answers until we try some things out."

Clement wants the provinces to move forward with pilot projects on wait-time guarantees, but he said some of them still need convincing.

The federal Conservative government promised the guarantees, which are supposed to ensure patients can go to another jurisdiction at the government's expense if timely care is not available at home.

Clement said the federal government is moving ahead in health areas where it has jurisdiction, but the guarantees are supposed to be available to all Canadians.

"I suggested we are willing to work with provinces to run pilot projects to get information," he said.

"Right now we are operating in a vacuum. We have many questions but few answers because of our lack of experience in running wait-time guarantee programs."

New Brunswick Health Minister Mike Murphy, chair of the conference, said the issue is money.

"Mr. Clement is very clear as to his agenda and we'd like to partake in many of those things on his agenda but proper financing is in order," Murphy said.

The New Brunswick minister said some argue money from the 2004 health-care accord, which was supposed to fix medicare for a generation, is simply allowing the provinces and territories to keep pace with the inflationary cost of health care.

A recent report from the Canadian Wait Time Alliance says it is impossible to track the impact of the $41-billion health-care accord because the provinces aren't posting sufficient data.

Experts who worked on the report said it's regrettable that the provinces use inconsistent methodology to report results, making it impossible to identify leaders or laggards.

Two provinces - Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland - have not set up wait-time websites.

Prince Edward Island Health Minister Chester Gillan said the province is working on improving access.

"We're looking at any and all innvoative ways to get to the benchmarks," Gillan said.

However, critics maintain that benchmarks without guarantees are just empty promises.

Clement said a major federal and provincial meeting on wait-time guarantees will be held in February in Toronto.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Autism & Familiy Ties

While fears of vaccines and thimerosal as potential causes of autism, without substantial scientific support for those fears, have dominated media coverage scientists have been studying biological and genetic factors that might influence the development of autism. In sometimes light hearted and totally unscientific discussion with other parent autism advocates I have remarked on apparent "autistic tendencies" of some parents including yours truly. A group of studies have focussed on family members of persons with autism and are producing some interesting results. These studies apparently show that parents and siblings of autistic children sometimes share some of the anatomical and behavioral anomalies characteristic of autism, even though they themselves do not have the disorder.

Ped Med: Studies eye autistic kids' kin

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- A number of studies have shown parents and siblings of autistic children sometimes share some of the anatomical and behavioral anomalies characteristic of autism, even though they themselves do not have the disorder.

The studies were carried out to circumvent the difficulties inherent in investigations of brain and cognitive development in autistic children, many of whom have limited communication skills, among other challenges, researchers said.

In one investigation, scientists at the University of Colorado, Colorado State University and the University of Denver pored over three-dimensional brain images of the children's kindred for signs of heritable abnormalities.

In comparing the scans of 40 parents with autistic offspring and 40 without, they found size differences between the two groups in a multitude of regions, each of which regulates behaviors that are affected in autism, the authors said.

In the autistic children's kin, they reported observing:

-- A shrunken cerebellum, the coordinator of motion and regulator of speech, learning, emotions, attention and other cognitive thinking;

-- A shriveled prefrontal cortex, also referred to as the "theory of mind area" because of its pivotal role in interpreting intentions, motivations and feelings of other people;

-- An oversized motor cortex, the controller of voluntary movement;

-- A bloated basal ganglia, a center for planning and imitating motion that also is associated with compulsive and ritualistic behaviors, and

-- An undersized somatosensory cortex, a site critical to comprehending facial expressions and other social cues.

The team is planning to confirm the findings in studies of twins.

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, investigators used advanced imaging and eye-tracking technologies to peek at ocular activity and measure brain structures in nine boys with autism, their nine non-autistic brothers and nine unrelated healthy youngsters.

They said they found the sibling pairs shared the autistic proclivity to avoid eye contact with strangers, friends and even family members.

In addition, the researchers said, the boys had an abnormally small amygdala, an almond-shaped, multi-task area that holds the key to reading facial expressions and experiencing fear at social situations.

None of these features appeared in the "control" group of non-autistic boys with non-autistic relatives, the study authors said.

Because the deficits observed in the typically developing brothers of autistic children did not result in any noticeable symptoms, the researchers reasoned other brain areas must be compensating for the shortfalls. That suggests autism touches multiple brain systems to make itself known, the investigators said.

Parental genes may affect a baby's growth in other unforeseen ways, scientists said.

In one surprising finding, investigators from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., noted the nutritional composition of a woman's breast milk -- which has a bearing on the nursing infant's development -- may depend not only on what she eats but also on what she's inherited.

In the first study to show a genetic effect on human lactation, the researchers discovered having a certain variant of a gene -- which some one-third of the U.S. population does -- can boost by 40 percent the amount of a needed nutrient that enters a mother's breast milk, the team reported.

A shortage of the substance -- a type of omega-3 fat called decosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, found mainly in cold-water fish such as tuna, salmon and mackerel -- has been implicated in autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities and other developmental disorders.

(Note: In this multi-part installment, based on dozens of reports, conferences and interviews, Ped Med is keeping an eye on autism, taking a backward glance at its history and surrounding controversies, facing facts revealed by research and looking forward to treatment enhancements and expansions. Wasowicz is the author of the forthcoming book, "Suffer the Child: How the American Healthcare System Is Failing Our Future," to be published by Capital Books.)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Bill C - 304 National Strategy for the Treatment of Autism Act

On Tuesday December 5 2007 the House of Commons voted in favor of M-172 the private members' motion calling for a National Autism Strategy. Moved by Andy Scott, seconded by Peter Stoffer and amended with Mr. Scott's consent by the Conservative government the motion called for the federal government to work with the provinces in developing funding arrangements for autism, national standards and surveillance. A strong moral and symbolic statement it will probably lead to improvements for many Canadians with autism. Yesterday, saw debate in the House on Shawn Murphy's Bill C-304. As a Bill it requires a government seconder, which will probably not happen, and which will probably mean the Bill will die on the order paper without a vote.

Bill C-304 calls for amendment of the Canada Health Act to specifically mention autism and autism treatment thus providing the force of law to require government funded autism treatment. Bloc MP's would certainly vote against such a bill for reasons of their separatist agenda as they did on M-172. The Conservative party will also certainly oppose Bill C-304 primarily because of arguments over intrustion in provincial jurisdiction over health care. They will likely rely too on the argument that the Canada Health Act does not mention specific conditions or disabilities.

Both the Conservatives and the Bloc are bolstered too by public statements made by some representatives of the Autism Society Canada. Although autism advocates across Canada have fought for years for amendments to the Canada Health Act to specifically address autism treatment some officials of the Autism Society Canada have taken it upon themselves to appear before House and Senate committees and state that the Autism Society Canada does not seek amendment to the Canada Health Act. In doing so they pursue their own personal agendas and interests, such as preserving charitable tax status of ASC, ensuring the receipt of federal government grants for ASC and ensuring peace with the Quebec wing of the ASC. They do not represent the vast majority of autism advocates across Canada who have sacrificed time, money and sweat seeking amendment of the CHA to cover autism treatment. Advocates in the autism community have been betrayed by these public statements of select ASC officials. Government and Bloc politicians and bureaucrats with whom they lunch in Ottawa are undoubtedly pleased though with their actions.

Here is the debate on December 7 2006 on MP Shawn Murphy's C-304:




Thursday, December 7, 2006

Private Members' Business + -
[Private Members' Business]

* * *

+ -(1730)


National Strategy for the Treatment of Autism Act + -

next intervention previous intervention [Table of Contents]

He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to start off the second reading debate on this bill. Bill C-304 acknowledges the seriousness of this issue in this country. It clearly enunciates that we are talking about a health issue.

The bill has three provisions. We are asking the Minister of Health , acknowledging of course that this involves primarily provincial jurisdictions, to convene immediately a meeting with the 10 provincial and territorial health ministers to discuss this very issue. We are asking that the minister table before the end of 2007 a national strategy on the treatment of autism. We are also asking that the Canada Health Act be amended as follows:

Section 2 of the Canada Health Act is renumbered as subsection 2(1) and is amended by adding the following:

(2) For the purposes of this Act, services that are medically necessary or required under this Act include Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) and Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) for persons suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Members will conclude from my remarks that the overarching issue I want to make in this debate is that we are talking about a health issue and that the treatment modalities that I refer to be made available to all residents of Canada pursuant to the provisions of the Canada Health Act.

Again, if it is a health issue, I would urge and ask all members in the House to support it. If members feel on the other hand it is not a health issue, then of course the bill is flawed and it is not worthy of support.

Bill C-304 does not stand alone. There is a whole array of extremely important bills and motions on this extremely important topic. I would suggest the debate is raging.

A similar bill was tabled by the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, Bill C-210. Motion No. 172 introduced by the member for Fredericton calls for a national strategy. It calls for standards, surveillance, and research. That passed on December 5, 2006 with support from all four parties.

Ongoing as we speak are the hearings at the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology dealing with the funding of autism. I have seen the blues. There are very extensive hearings going on now. I expect sometime early in the new year there will be a report from that Senate committee.

There are numerous court cases that have been decided and there are numerous court cases being litigated as we speak right across this country.

I believe that colleagues on both sides of the House know, acknowledge and appreciate the seriousness of this issue.

I should point out also that the polling that has been done indicates that 84% of all residents of Canada support the concept that these treatment modalities should be financed under the provincial health care programs. About 84% of the constituents that we represent support the general thrust of this bill.

I am not an expert on the subject, but I do want to point out for the record that autism spectrum disorder is a complex developmental disorder. It affects people's ability to communicate, form relationships and react to their environments. It is caused by a neurological disorder that impedes normal brain development in the areas that affect social interaction and communication skills. It is a spectrum disorder.

The severity of the symptoms differs widely. Many people with ASD are perfectly capable of leading happy, healthy lives as functional members of society and require no treatment whatsoever. On the other hand, many people require very extensive treatment.

Within this spectrum, we include disorders such as pervasive development disorder, Rett syndrome, Asperger syndrome and child development disorder.

Tremendous changes are going on in society. At one time, going back 20 or 25 years ago, this was thought to be an extremely rare condition. I believe the numbers were 1 in 10,000. Now the most recent statistics that I have been given estimate that 1 in 167 children are affected by ASD. It affects four times as many boys as girls and is pervasive across all ethnicities and classes. We do not know the cause of the syndrome.

There is no definitive cure, however, in recent years a number of treatments have become available that can make a dramatic difference in the severity of the symptoms experienced by people with ASD. It is important to note that just as ASD affects individuals, in a vast array of ways, there is an extremely large range of support that is necessary for people affected by ASD. Some will need intensive help and constant supervision to get through the day, while others might simply need help with specific communication and social interaction skills.

+ -(1735)

The point I am making here today with this bill is effective treatment modalities exist.

The symptoms of ASD generally manifest themselves within the first three years of a child's life. It has been shown that when ASD is diagnosed early and the specific individual needs of the child are assessed and addressed, children with ASD can grow to exhibit much fewer or no symptoms.

There are two vital characteristics of this treatment, early diagnosis and consistent, long term care. We refer to these treatments as applied behavioural analysis and intensive behavioural intervention. These treatments include speech and language therapy. More important, ABA and IBI are designed to teach a child with autism a whole new way of learning. The treatment teaches them how to break down a task into its smallest components, and through constant, intensive reinforcement, to apply this method of thinking to everyday life as well as complex tasks.

Due to the intensity and time span of this treatment and the fact that it is almost exclusively conducted in a one on one environment, the treatment is costly; it is not cheap. When ABA or IBI are successfully applied, the changes in a child can be dramatic. There are stark differences as to the availability of this treatment across Canada. Some provinces offer it fairly generously. Some provinces include it in the social services or welfare envelope and it is means tested. We definitely have a two tier, or what I would perhaps better classify, a 13 tier health care system when we talk about the treatment of autism.

Again, it depends entirely on what province that particular child happens to be born in, and in some instances, the regions within the provinces where that child happens to live. For example, in Alberta, children have full access to treatment. In Ontario they have access up to a certain and I would argue arbitrary age at which time treatment is cut off. In other provinces, as I have stated, it is in the social services envelope. It is means tested and it is just not available in any way, shape or form the way it should be under our Canada Health Act.

As we go forward and we debate this bill, we as a society are judged on how we treat the most vulnerable among us. We owe it to all Canadians, all families dealing with this particular issue.

I realize that somebody will state that it is a provincial issue, but again we have the Canada Health Act. I realize we cannot dictate to the provincial health ministers, but we can come forward with a national strategy. We have to discuss it and debate it with the provincial ministers and we have to eventually amend the Canada Health Act so these children, these individuals, these families, can get the treatment that they deserve.

+ -(1740)

There is a national strategy with respect to cancer, diabetes and drugs. Why can we not have one for autism?

Again, I mention that it will not be cheap. It will cost a lot of money and the Government of Canada would have to pay its fair share. That will be one of the arguments from the provincial government. If they are being asked to do this, the federal government is going to have to pay its fair share.

However, on the other side of the coin, there are substantial and numerous benefits. A lot of individuals are not diagnosed early and do not receive the treatment to which they are entitled. They end up being institutionalized at considerable expense to society. The families have to incur hundreds of thousands of dollars treating these children with no reimbursement. The quality of life of the families suffers and, most important and tragic, the quality of life of the affected individuals suffers dramatically. We are judged on how we treat the most vulnerable among us, whether it is the disabled, sick, old, the infirm or people with autism.

I know people will say that it is a jurisdictional issue. I think I have dealt with that already. People will say that it costs money. Yes, it costs money, but cancer costs money, heart disease costs money, diabetes costs money. These are health issues. I go back to my original statement. If it is a health issue, let us move forward and deal with it. If it is not a health issue, let us put it to bed.

In conclusion, I ask every member of the House to do the right thing on this issue. I ask that we all show leadership. I ask members to vote for this bill and move forward on this issue as soon as possible.
next intervention previous intervention [Table of Contents]

Mr. Speaker, the member will be happy that the health minister has announced that he will be having a national symposium in 2007 on the issue of autism.

The member talked about specific diseases like diabetes and cancer, but the Canada Health does not mention any of those specifics. It deals with five broad principles, of which I am sure the member is aware. In opening up the Canada Health Act for autism, how many other diseases, ailments and other things would the member like to add and what would the process be to do that?

His party, my party and other parties have all said they will not amend the Canada Health Act. Is the member suggesting that his party is looking to break its promise on amending the Canada Health Act?

Finally, the member talked about health being a jurisdictional issue, and it is. Why have some provinces decided to classify autism under another name or category? Would the effort not be better served to lobby provinces to include autism as a health issue?

Those are the questions. Though I appreciate the intent of the member, logic dictates that the efforts, though well intentioned, may be misplaced. Could the members answer those questions?
next intervention previous intervention [Table of Contents]

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member across for his interest in this issue. I appreciate that the minister has announced he is having a national symposium in 2007, but that is just one step in this continuum on which we are working.

The member talked about the diseases of diabetes and cancer not being mentioned in the Canada Health Act. He is quite right. However, if I am diagnosed with cancer tomorrow and I go for treatment, that treatment is paid for under Canada Health Act. If I have diabetes, I can go to the hospital or a doctor, I can get treatment for that diabetes and that is paid for by the Canadian Health Act.

However, if my child had autism, in most provinces in Canada I would be told to pound sand, that I must pay for it myself. If it cost $50,000, $60,000, $70,000, I must go out and raise the money, sell my assets and pay for it myself. That is totally wrong.

Again, we come back to this debate. I ask members who follow me to speak to ask themselves if this is a health issue. If it is, we should deal with it. If it is not a health issue, the bill is flawed.

The member across talked about parties saying they were not going to amend the Canada Health Act. That is a decision for every member of Parliament to tell the Canadian people whether they are prepared to amend the Canada Health Act. For people watching this debate, I am prepared to amend the it, as I stated. I do not know how many people out there are prepared to amend it. However, if a majority of the people in the House say they are prepared to amend the it, then the Canada Health Act will be amended.

+ -(1745)

next intervention previous intervention [Table of Contents]

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows that I have a significant interest in this issue as I have a son with autism.

I want to comment on a couple of things. The member talks about including autism in the Canada Health Act. As the parliamentary secretary mentioned, cancer is not named in the Canada Health Act nor is diabetes, yet the provinces act on those.

I am in full agreement that this is a health issue. I am in full agreement, as someone who has benefited from my son having ABA/IBI treatment for the past eight and a half years in Alberta, funded by the government, that all provinces should be fund this and they should do that tomorrow. That is the appropriate way for this to be handled.

Putting this type of amendment in the Canada Health Act on an ad hoc basis, starting with autism, then cancer or diabetes or whatever next, does the member feel this is the appropriate method?

My second question is, has he—
next intervention previous intervention [Table of Contents]

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member. There is no time for a second question.

The hon. member for Charlottetown should know that the time has run out. However, I will allow a short moment to respond.
next intervention previous intervention [Table of Contents]

Mr. Speaker, as the member points out, he has a child with autism whom I have met. He certainly knows far more about this issue than I do.

There is one point I want to make. The member's child was lucky to be born in Alberta, and he acknowledges that it is a health issue. If that child had been born in another province or lived in another province, and I will not mention them, but certainly all the Atlantic Canadian provinces, that child would not get any of the treatments the member's child has received. If he did, it would be cut off when he was six.

It is my proposition that regardless of where people are born in Canada, regardless of where people live, they should be treated equally.
next intervention previous intervention [Table of Contents]

Mr. Speaker, I could not help but notice that the member did not answer the question with respect to process. My colleague from Edmonton raised the issue of selecting diseases on that ad hoc basis. The wording of the Canada Health Act is such that it should catch all health related issues. I wonder if the member has given any consideration to lobbying his provincial government to look at the costs related to autism because that would be the appropriate venue to do this type of lobbying as it falls under provincial jurisdiction.

We recognize that the growing number of children and families affected by autism spectrum disorders requires action, but the government cannot support the bill put forward by the hon. member for Charlottetown. Given the respective roles and responsibilities of the federal, provicial and territorial governments in the area of health care, amending the Canada Health Act may not be the best way to go.

We all appreciate the reasons behind the introduction of this bill. While we know that many people with autism are not disabled by the impact of the disorder, but live regular everyday lives, we also know that autism spectrum disorders can affect people in many very difficult ways, sometimes isolating them as a result of compulsive behaviour and speech disorders that close them off from their families, friends, teachers, neighbours, and society as a whole. Autism can impact all aspects of a person's life and if untreated, result in physical, emotional, social and intellectual isolation.

Sadly, we also know that there is no universal treatment that works equally and in all cases. Many believe that behavioural therapy services such as applied behavioural analysis or intensive behavioural intervention, known collectively as ABA or IBI, are the best treatments for children with autism spectrum disorders.

Families of children with autism spectrum disorders have reported improved self-functioning, self-efficiency, and quality of life when their children are provided with ABA or IBI services, particularly at an early age.

There is no doubt that a situation for which the treatments most likely to be beneficial cost tens of thousands of dollars can be a profound challenge on top of the challenges that autism spectrum disorders may bring in the first place.

No one on either side of this House denies that families affected by autism face gaps in the services, especially the social services, that can be used to address the needs of their children. We have heard from parents and other autism stakeholders that one of the challenges facing children with autism spectrum disorders is the inconsistency of services available across the country.

It is not surprising to me that people in the autism community, parents and supporters of many kinds, have been so active in seeking action on autism spectrum disorders. We understand that parents of children with autism spectrum disorders are concerned about access to treatment and we have tremendous sympathy for them. However, the responsibility for delivering health care services in Canada rests with the provinces and territories, and it is at this level that the issue must be addressed.

Amending the Canada Health Act to include behavioural therapy is not an appropriate response to this issue. Rather, Canada's new government is committed to working to help Canadian families affected by autism spectrum disorders.

+ -(1750)

As announced recently, we are undertaking five initiatives to improve knowledge and research on autism spectrum disorders and to help those individuals and families who may need more assistance meeting the challenges that autism can bring.

In addition to initiatives aimed at additional research and surveillance of autism spectrum disorders, we will be sponsoring a symposium on autism next spring. It is our hope that this symposium will serve as an opportunity for all stakeholders to share best practices, exchange knowledge and learn from others.

While the details are not final yet, we anticipate that the focus of the symposium will be in the areas of research, surveillance and knowledge development. In particular, we have heard time and time again from stakeholders of the importance of knowledgeable information and research on autism spectrum disorders.

A symposium designed to bring together key researchers and knowledge experts in the area will be extremely valuable. We also hope that the symposium will assist with the establishment of more surveillance and epidemiological studies to determine actual incidence and possible geographic “pockets” of autism.

Finally, we hope that the symposium will enable stakeholders, including individuals with autism and their families, to share information on the individual manifestations of autism and to discuss essential supports for people with autism and their families.

We know that access to reliable information is a challenge for the public, including parents of autistic children. That is why, as announced two weeks ago, a web page on autism has been added to the Health Canada website. The web page, as it grows and is further developed, will facilitate access to public information related to autism spectrum disorders.

We also indicated that the health policy branch of Health Canada will be responsible in the future for the coordination of policy and program activities at the health portfolio level.

These initiatives are important and they have been very well received by stakeholders. We recognize that these initiatives do not address all the issues associated with autism spectrum disorders. However, they will contribute to laying the foundation for a national strategy on autism.

I am pleased to have lent my support and also co-written Motion No. 172 that was introduced by my hon. colleague, the hon. member for Fredericton. One of the components of the motion was the establishment, in cooperation with the provinces and territories, of national standards for diagnosis and treatment. We know that many families of individuals with autism have felt that action had to be taken in this area. There are many different treatments for autism and very little research has been done to evaluate how they work.

The government recognizes that there is a need to compare different forms of ABA and other treatments through randomized controlled trials and other methods to determine what is most effective in particular circumstances. This is why the investments we are making in research are so critical. They are a necessary foundation for a broader approach to the issue.

While we are moving forward on these new initiatives, the government will continue to provide support to individuals with autism and their families who need it, including financial support through the tax system. In budget 2006, the Minister of Finance raised the maximum annual child disability benefit. In addition, he extended eligibility for the child disability benefit to middle income earners and therefore reaches almost everyone.

Canada's new government will continue to fund the four centres of excellence for children's well-being with an emphasis and interest in autism spectrum disorders.

There are other programs that the government has undertaken, however, time does not permit me to speak on all of them. Let me just say that autism is an important issue. We have to work together. We have to be honest in the discussion and be honest where the responsibility lies.

The federal government is taking responsibility in the areas that lie in the federal government's jurisdiction. I hope the awareness that is being created by this debate will empower the people who are affected by autism and help ensure that provinces make the right decision in their jurisdiction.

+ -(1755)


next intervention previous intervention [Table of Contents]

Mr. Speaker, it is difficult to talk about a subject like this one because when we talk about autism, and autism spectrum disorders and behavioural disorders, we are talking about children, parents and grandparents struggling with very real difficulties every day. Although they are beautiful, intelligent and bright, autistic children demonstrate unusual behaviours that make daily life very difficult for their parents and caregivers.

I feel compassion and I sympathize with my colleague from Charlottetown when he says these children need care. I find it very sad that people in the Maritime provinces do not have access to that care. It is unfortunate, and it also speaks to the situation most provinces find themselves in because they do not have enough money. They are forced to make difficult choices in terms of health care, and often, those choices do not meet the needs people express. That is the case in many places, including Quebec.

Earlier, I mentioned caregivers, but we should also be talking about education. These children need special care and services. We should also be talking about childcare services, respite care and employment assistance services for when they get older and have been lucky enough to benefit from special services as they were growing up. Some of them can enter the labour force if they receive the help they need. Employment assistance services for people with disabilities are under exclusive federal jurisdiction.

Unfortunately, that service is going through a very difficult time right now. Partners and organizations providing the service still do not know if they will get the money they need to carry on their good work after next April.

I would like to tell my colleague that opening up or amending the Canada Health Act will certainly not help us get results. If we start amending the Canada Health Act, we will once again be encroaching on provincial and territorial jurisdiction. That is something we do not want to do, something that has been done too much already and that the new government claims it no longer wants to do.

If we are to do something, it should be to try to return transfers to the levels that existed before 1994-95, when the Liberal government slashed provincial transfers for health, education and other areas. Since then, it has been very difficult for all provinces to provide adequate services to deal with growing problems. There are now more and more autistic children and the prevalence of juvenile diabetes and obesity among children is also rising. Why? Because the provinces do not have the money to fund adequate services. When there is no money, we must unfortunately resign ourselves to cutting services and providing only essential services to citizens. That is what is happening pretty well all over Canada, except in Alberta because it is a very rich province. The other provinces have had difficulty fulfilling their obligations, particularly in the areas of health and education.

For the organization in Quebec that represents individuals affected by autism or autism spectrum disorders, the parents and those individuals who represent them, it is very important that provincial and territorial jurisdiction be respected. The decisions must be made by the provinces, which are responsible for assessing needs. The Bloc Québécois recognizes the significance of this fight to obtain adequate services and treatment for children suffering from autism and to provide their families with the support required to ensure a certain quality of life.

+ -(1800)

However, we also know that it is an extremely complex illness requiring a careful case-by-case assessment. Treatment possibilities are dependent upon several factors and not just one. In Quebec, some services are available, but not all have been evaluated. Only Quebec and the provinces are in a position to determine which services are needed by the individuals, and their families, affected by autism. The government works in collaboration with local partners in the community and the educational environment, sectors that are a provincial jurisdiction. The federal government cannot establish, through the Canada Health Act, which health services are covered by provincial insurance plans.

Furthermore, the federal government does not have the resources to assess what is needed. Provincial departments are in a much better position to do that. The Quebec federation that advocates for people with autism represents many people. Some 80 organizations belong to the umbrella agency. Thus, small organizations representing a small number of people would not have us thinking that the direction they wish to take is not the right one, because it would not be representative enough.

The federation represents a large number of people. There is very little contact between the federation and Ottawa. The federal government's sole contribution to the federation was in the context of training support. That activity could be considered a matter of federal responsibility, if it was in the context of training that would help a person enter the workforce, as do the SPHERE-Québec programs. Those programs are supported by the federal government and help people find jobs, and learn to work, get up everyday and get to work on time. This is not necessarily easy for people who have never worked before, who have other problems or have autism.

However, such individuals can learn and they learn with support. We must be very careful when discussing such bills. Above all, the government must not return to its old ways of encroaching on provincial and territorial jurisdictions. We have seen enough of that. We want people to enjoy the services to which they are entitled, but we want these services to be provided by the proper authorities, namely, the provinces and territories. The only way to solve the problem once and for all is to correct the fiscal imbalance. We have often said we hope this is taken care of soon and we hope the provinces will have the money they need to tackle all diseases that affect children. These children could receive proper care if the provinces had the necessary money.

+ -(1805)


next intervention previous intervention [Table of Contents]

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today on behalf of my party on a very important national issue.

Before I begin my remarks, Mr. Speaker, I have not had the chance to publicly thank you, as the member for Ottawa—Orléans, for the great work you do on behalf of veterans and the Royal Canadian Legion. I know that you are a great supporter. As a person whose parents were liberated by the great veterans, it is nice to know that your continuous support for veterans is simply outstanding. You should be congratulated for that effort.

On the issue at hand, that of autism, I keep hearing from governments and others that it is a provincial jurisdiction and it is up to the provincial and territorial governments to deliver health care. I was rather pleased by and very complimentary of the fact that the federal government announced, with various agencies throughout the country, a national cancer strategy. I believe the amount was around $260 million over a five year period. Various agencies and organizations throughout the country have been lobbying for this for many years, including many members of Parliament and senators, and we have finally achieved it.

If we are able to do that for something as extremely important as the national cancer strategy, with the same argument that health care is delivered by the provinces, then why is it so challenging when we talk about autism that we have to find jurisdictional battles in which to discuss it?

The reality is that after the end of the debate tonight families are going to wake up tomorrow and will be suffering under the tremendous financial and emotional strain of dealing with children and young adults who have autism. When I go back to my constituents and I tell them there is no help yet, that there may be a meeting in April of next year to talk about it some more, that is another five months.

I have to tell parents that there is no help yet. Then they consider the option of having to move to another jurisdiction that can give them the opportunity for their children to get proper treatment.

The hon. member for Fredericton once told us that he worked on behalf of military families that did not want to move from Edmonton to Gagetown. If their children had autism they would get treatment in Edmonton, but not in New Brunswick. Although they are proud to serve their country, they are thinking of their families. They did not want to refuse the transfer, which of course they cannot, but they find it very difficult. They want to serve their country, but their country is not prepared to serve their families.

We have been asking for this for a long time. I know that the intent or the premise of the bill put forward by the hon. member for Charlottetown is that, no matter where people live in this country, if adults or children have autism there should be treatment available for them. They should not have to reach into their pockets or mortgage their homes or anything else in order to obtain the required treatment.

There is a great old saying: where you stand on an issue depends on where you sit. I know that some of my colleagues in the Conservative Party and others have a very personal view on autism because they themselves have children who have autism or Asperger syndrome or something of that nature. My heart goes out to them and their families, as does my support.

I can almost assure members that if everybody in the House had a child with autism and we lived in the riding of member for Charlottetown, I guarantee that something would happen very quickly. I find it annoying that we can find reasons to say no, but we cannot find reasons to say yes.

I was here on the shameless day when, in three hours, from the House to the Senate to royal assent, we gave ourselves a pay raise. It only took three hours. What a shameful history of the members of Parliament. In three hours we can give ourselves a pay raise, pass it, get it into the Senate and do royal assent, but we sit here and fight about jurisdictional concerns when it comes to some of the most beautiful children in Canada, when it comes to families that just want their kids to be able to grow and have all the opportunities that we in the House take for granted in many cases.

+ -(1810)

We know there is a financial cost to this, but the reality is that it is an investment. It is not an expenditure. We have proven over and over again that for every dollar we spend on autism strategies and autism treatments we save a tremendous amount of money down the road.

Right now schools in Nova Scotia have teachers' aides dealing with children with autism. Many times children are sent home because they are disruptive in class, so not only are the children going through the concerns of autism, but they are denied any opportunities for an education because in the view of the teacher's aide, the teacher and the principal they are disruptive in class.

We have a so-called fiscal imbalance in this country. Why can the government not work with the provinces and territories, deal with this issue and use this as an example of cooperation among everybody?

I am pleased that the government is going to have a symposium in April, but we have attended and will attend many symposiums, reviews, studies and meetings down the road. What happens the day after the symposium? What do I tell the people in my riding who have children with autism? Do I tell them there is still no help yet, that we are talking about it, but there is no help yet?

An old farmer from Saskatoon once told me that money is like manure. If it sits in a great big pile, it stinks, but if it is spread around it does a lot of good. If the government wishes to deal with the fiscal imbalance of all the provinces in the country, then it should use this as an example. Assist, as my colleague from the Bloc said. Let us assist the provinces. Let us give them the resources they need so they in turn can develop the systems and programs to deal with children and young adults with autism.

The government should assist the provinces, not fight with them. It should work with them, just like it did on the national cancer strategy. It is amazing that the government can come up with $260 million. I give the government top credit for that. It should be congratulated for moving on that issue, but we ask the government to apply that same dedication and spirit to an autism strategy.

Motion No. 172 from my hon. colleague from Fredericton was passed with the assistance of other members and parties in the House. It was a great day when the government actually accepted a motion to deal with a national autism strategy, working with the provinces, but we need to move that up a bit. We need to move it very quickly.

We need to be able to tell the thousands of families out there that they will not have to move any more to receive assistance for their children, and that if they do move, no matter where they go in this country they will receive equal treatment for their children with autism. Would it not be great to be able to say that? We have the fiscal capacity to do it. The reality is that this investment in our children and their families will pay off in the long run.

I want to congratulate all those individual families from across the country, but especially a young man named Josh Bortolotti, whom we all know. He is 12 years old and is one of the top 50 in Ottawa to watch, as they say. He is fighting for a national autism strategy and treatment for his sister. If a 12 year old can dedicate his life to fight for treatment in Ontario for his sister, surely we as members of Parliament can do that right across the country to help all families who have children with autism.

I want to thank the hon. member for Charlottetown for bringing this very important subject and debate to the House of Commons.

+ -(1815)

next intervention previous intervention [Table of Contents]

Mr. Speaker, as members know, in recent weeks this House has reflected extensively on what it means to be Canadian, yet regardless of our sociological or cultural differences, all Canadians share common values on what kind of country we have worked so hard to create together, a country where each and every citizen has an equal chance to make the most of the great opportunities here in Canada.


All Canadians share the same values and want a country where everyone has an equal chance to seize the wonderful opportunities here in Canada.


We have had remarkable success, yet today we are failing over 300,000 Canadians. Every 166th child born in Canada is afflicted by autism spectrum disorder. Either those children are left unable to function in society or their families face a crushing financial burden, and all the while our universal health care system is silent to this suffering. Canada has neglected autism for too long and the time has come to begin to address it.


Autism affects more than 3,000 Canadians. We have long neglected autism, and the time has come to address this problem.


Autism has a devastating effect on a child's quality of life. I think all members can agree on that.

Autism is a neurological disorder that causes developmental disability. It affects the way the brain functions, creating difficulties in communication and social interaction and unusual patterns of behaviour, activity and interests. Its symptoms, as we know, vary widely. Some autistic children display repetitive behaviour. Others suffer self-inflicted injuries. Some cannot even speak and must communicate through the use of computers and full time support staff in schools.

Autism not only affects the individual, but also the individual's family, friends and caregivers who must cope with the individual's difficult childhood.

There is hope for these children. Applied behavioural analysis and intensive behavioural intervention have been shown to dramatically improve social and intellectual functioning of autistic children and thereby their quality of life.

It is critical to get these children the treatment that is required as soon as possible, as soon as they are diagnosed in their formative years. Proper treatment gives autistic children the chance they deserve to enjoy all the joys and opportunities that other children do.

+ -(1820)


Autism has a devastating effect on a child's quality of life. Autism affects not only the individual, but also the individual's family, friends and caregivers. But there is hope. Some treatments are producing dramatic results. With help, these autistic children can have the same opportunities as other Canadian children.


While the courts have rejected the idea that governments have a legal obligation to treat autism, we parliamentarians here in this House have a moral duty to uphold the promise of all those who have worked to build our country. Treating autism, I would argue, is a matter of equality of citizenship.

But we are not fulfilling that commitment today. Medicare does not provide for the treatment of autism. Some provinces offer limited programs for autism as has been discussed here already and other provinces offer nothing at all. Without medicare coverage, families with autistic children are left to bear the crushing financial burden of treatment on their own at a cost of approximately $45,000 to $60,000 a year. Some families mortgage their house to pay for treatment; others simply go bankrupt. Some parents must choose whether they can afford to give their child certain therapy.


The cost of treatment ranges from $45,000 to $60,000 a year, and this is quite simply beyond the means of most Canadians. We should not and cannot ask a family to choose between a normal life for a child and financial security.


No family should have to bear such an enormous, arbitrary burden. We have recognized the importance of this principle in other areas, such as the deepening of our catastrophic drug coverage.

How should the House address this issue? First, we should acknowledge from the outset that provincial health plans are not within our jurisdiction and that we must respect the divisions of power between our two levels of government. However, the federal government can and I would argue indeed must play a constructive role to ensure that Canadian families have equal access to treatment.

The federal government must lead a national strategy because the cost of treatment is so great that a lack of a national standard will create what I call medical arbitrage. Families with autistic children will be forced to leave their communities to move to the provinces with the best programs. No province will push to create more comprehensive treatment when it is being penalized by inflows of patients. There will be a race to the bottom, not a race to the top.


It is clear that the federal government can play an important role in autism, but it must also respect provincial jurisdictions. Bill C-304 lays out avenues for dealing with autism.


The bill before the House lays out a way forward. It addresses the two most important steps that Canada must take to address autism.

First, this bill would require the Minister of Health to convene a conference between all provincial and territorial health ministers for the purpose of developing a national strategy for the treatment of autism. To address autism we must work with the provinces. They have the responsibility here, but not the funds. One solution that could emerge from this conference is the development of a funding mechanism to assist provincial governments in providing the support that Canadians with autism need.

This bill would also amend the Canada Health Act to make applied behavioural analysis and intensive behavioural intervention defined as medically necessary for persons with autism.

It is somewhat absurd to suggest that therapy is not necessary for an autistic child. Without therapy, an autistic child simply cannot live a normal life. For the child's humanity, treatment is necessary.

+ -(1825)


This bill lays out avenues that involve the provinces. It is time Canada took action against autism, a blight on society. We must support this bill.


Funding autism treatment means the investment of not insignificant funds in our children. As such, it must be carefully considered, but it has to be considered. Simply putting funds into websites and public relations does not nearly do enough for these families, and the reward of turning a dysfunctional, socially troubled child into a productive member of Canadian society is worth it.

It is time we stood shoulder to shoulder with all our fellow Canadians. Treating autism is an important step in the never-ending march toward realizing the Canadian dream of equality.
next intervention previous intervention [Table of Contents]

Resuming debate. The hon. member for St. Catharines should know that he has 10 minutes, however, about only three minutes this evening. He will be interrupted at 6:30.
next intervention previous intervention [Table of Contents]

Mr. Speaker, I have ultimate faith in you that you will ensure that whatever remaining time I have in the second hour of debate on this issue you will give to me and I appreciate that.

It is a great opportunity to speak to the bill that is before us today.

As a former chief of staff to the minister of community and social services and our current Treasury Board president, I had the opportunity to participate in and help formulate the first preschool program in the province of Ontario. While this is an issue that impacts us on a nationwide basis, it certainly is a good feeling to have been able to contribute to a program that was the first to start here in Ontario.

I also want to speak to private member's Bill C-304, An Act to provide for the development of a national strategy for the treatment of autism and to amend the Canada Health Act. This bill would extend provincial and territorial health care insurance to cover the cost of applied behavioural analysis and intensive behavioural intervention treatment services for persons with autism spectrum disorders.

Let me say at the outset that I am understandably sympathetic to the concerns raised in this bill. Although services for individuals with autism spectrum disorders are important and they need to be dealt with, the Canada Health Act is the wrong instrument to achieve this objective. I would like to address the difficulty of reconciling the proposed bill with the fundamental purpose and intent of the Canada Health Act. In addition, passage of the bill would mean imposing on an area of provincial and territorial jurisdiction.

The Canada Health Act is the cornerstone of the Canadian health care system. The aim of the act is to ensure that all eligible residents of Canada have reasonable access to medically necessary services without direct charges. This essential act is based on the government's commitment to a universal, accessible, comprehensive, portable and publicly administered health care system. The act protects the access of Canadians to health care by establishing criteria that the provinces and territories must meet to receive the full amount of federal cash contribution owed to them in respect of health care.

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to continuing discussion on this bill as we move forward in the second hour of debate.

+ -(1830)

next intervention previous intervention [Table of Contents]

When debate resumes on Bill C-304, there will be seven and a half minutes left for the hon. member for St. Catharines.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.